My parents suck.
July 20, 2014 12:30 PM   Subscribe

My parents are incredibly rude narcissists. This time they've turned their focus on my sister. What can I do to support her through this?

My younger sister is 30, has a 9 month old beautiful, healthy, happy daughter and is married. There don't have a lot of money, but aren't on welfare or anything like that. My sister has a stormy job history, but right now is working a job and is doing an awesome job. It's not a glamorous or high paying job, but it's a job and she can support her family. In my eyes, that is all that matters.

My sister and her husband have been married for several years and it was a whirlwind and then he was deported in the military. He's been home now for about 2 years and is working through some major PTSD. He does not have a job, but is going to school for a degree in a lucrative career that might not be here right now, but further down the road will be great. In the meantime, he's working through his problems,

My sister and husband have been working through marital issues on top of all that. Things are bumpy because he has been self-medicating his PTSD by means of addiction, but they have both realized this and are getting help. Life isn't always rosy, but they are working it out. Again, that is what matters in my mind. They really are doing the best they can in the situation and to make ends meet.

With that said, awhile back, AskMe gave me incredible advice about my parents and am hoping for some for what to do to support my sister.

The issue boils down to this: my sister and her family live several states away in a rented apartment (and are able to make rent, etc) and my parents were planning a visit. My sister was honest and told them that she was sorry, but this isn't a good time due to them working through this stressful situation. She gave them 2 weeks notice when they realized it wouldn't be best to have my judgey parents visiting them. I know that shit happens, but I feel like she did the right thing by being honest with them.

Cue temper tantrum by my parents.

They basically flipped out and said they were coming anyway because they are ENTITLED to see their granddaughter. This is verbatim and this is bullshit. I'm angry about at their complete lack of boundaries and pointed my sister to the Daughter of a Narcissistic Mothers website, this is pretty much all textbook. She is scared that they are going to call the cops (they would because they did this to ME back in college because I had not called them in 2 weeks due to studying for exams). She's scared they are going to take her baby (I assured her this wouldn't happen and because they aren't doing anything wrong, my parents could be charged with kidnapping). It's ridiculous. I can elaborate more if needed.

So far I've given her that website info, have listened to her and sympathized with her. I also recommended she send an email to them documenting this and calling the local police to give them a heads up...not a restraining order, but to let them know that this will most likely happen. What else can I do? I understand that her goal is to stop the bullshit now before it gets worse. Thoughts?
posted by floweredfish to Human Relations (17 answers total) 4 users marked this as a favorite
Wow, this sounds tough. Your parents are being totally inappropriate. I'm glad your sister has you during this time.

I'd suggest asking her if she wants them to come at some point in the future. Does she? If she's not sure, it is fine to wait. But if she does want them to come at some point in the future, just not now, how about the following:

-Send parents an email stating that it is up to them if they want to travel to CITY, and reiterating that she, husband and baby will not be able to receive them or visit with them if they do elect to come.
-State that to make sure she has privacy during this tough time, they have proactively changed the locks and disconnected the doorbell (if parents had a copy of the key).
-State that they are looking forward to visiting with parents in the future. If there IS a time she thinks she'd like to see them, this would be a good time to mention it, e.g. "Though August won't work, we're looking forward to seeing you. What does December look like for you?" If there isn't a specific time, that's ok too, just leave it vague for now.
posted by arnicae at 12:38 PM on July 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Take this from the other side of the picture: Your parents think their daughter is dating an abusive alcoholic/drug addict, there's a new baby, and all they know is that their daughter doesn't want to see them. I don't think it requires being narcissistic to flip the fuck out over that.
posted by empath at 12:39 PM on July 20, 2014 [46 favorites]

Setting boundaries is healthy. That said, would "one-hour visit over lunch with just Sister and Baby" be OK for everyone?
posted by samthemander at 12:41 PM on July 20, 2014

I think at this point you have to let your sister handle this herself. If she wants to draw a line, she needs to follow through with her refusal to see them and weather their reaction. Repeat for as long as necessary.
posted by Lyn Never at 12:44 PM on July 20, 2014 [2 favorites]

I would let your sister know that you are happy to back her up in whatever decision she makes, and then I would let her and her husband take the lead. You can't establish or maintain boundaries for them; they need to do that themselves.

I'm unsure whether you're saying your sister is scared that your parents are going to take the baby or that the cops/CPS are going to take the baby, but if it's the former, she absolutely has the right to prevent your parents from coming into the apartment. She can also call 911 and report them for trespassing if they won't go away. If she's worried the police might come at your parents' request, she might just want to call the non-emergency number and let them know there has been escalating family drama and that your parents have, in the past, requested welfare checks on their kids as a means of exerting control, and ask the police if there's anything she should do to document that sort of bullying tactic or whatever. The police likely won't really do anything, but sometimes they can put a note attached to an address that's just kind of a "heads up" that'll pop up if they do get a call from or about that residence.
posted by jaguar at 1:02 PM on July 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

all they know is that their daughter doesn't want to see them

No, we don't know what they know.

Or that her husband is "abusive."
posted by liketitanic at 1:03 PM on July 20, 2014 [16 favorites]

Promise not to threadsit, but a few more thing:

- he is a good Dad and husband and not abusive. Hs never had problems with the law and looooves his daughter.

- his family is trying to supportive, although they also live a few states away

- my parents have always had some vendetta because they chose to elope and not have a big wedding. My parent hate his parents and I'm not sure why

- the addiction is gambling

- my parents were planning on driving to see them - which is like, a 7 hour drive

- they keep hanging up the phoned on her every time she tries to explain that it's not a good time with "see you on XX weekend!"
posted by floweredfish at 1:04 PM on July 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Is your sister & husband in a position to be somewhere else that weekend? Just don't be there when the parents show up. Stay with friends, get a cheapish hotel, something? Even if they can just spend the days away with the cell phones turned off so the parents can't find them. If the parents might call the police to report missing persons or something, she can definitely call the non-emergency line (or go in) ahead of time to let them know she's afraid of this happening, but she's fine.
posted by brainmouse at 1:11 PM on July 20, 2014 [21 favorites]

They should plan to be out of town that weekend, even if it's just for a day's drive somewhere. Can they stay with friends somewhere, ideally friends who the parents don't know? They could even just go stay in an inexpensive motel or AirBnB somewhere. Anything that they don't have to deal with being around when your parents show up. If they like and trust their neighbors they could also mention to them that they're going out of town, in case your parents arrive and make a huge scene when they discover that your sister and her family aren't home.
posted by elizardbits at 1:14 PM on July 20, 2014 [1 favorite]

Have you been to /r/raisedbynarcissists? There are a lot of people there who can offer great advice for situations like this.
posted by melissasaurus at 1:20 PM on July 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

It's a free country, if I were your sister I'd say, "I can't stop you from coming, but I don't have to answer my door to you, nor do I have to be here for your visit. I want to save you from the drive and the expense but if you insist, feel free. Just know that I'm not going to give into bullying and manipulation."

Then if I had to work, I'd send my husband and the baby to a movie or to visit his family or some other place and I'd head off to work. Otherwise, I'd go off for an outing with my family. If they might pull a welfare check or some shit like that, just call the police non-emergency number and tell someone that you believe that your parents might do this. You may want to let the landlord know too, in case someone tries to hit him or her up for a key or some shit like that.

Your parent's are the limit, and they need to learn that they don't dictate what happens. But ultimately your sister needs to state her own boundaries and limits and to stand up for herself.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 1:30 PM on July 20, 2014 [19 favorites]

Tell your sister you love her.

(In addition to the helpful advice above. Also, 2dg r/raisedbynarcissists- it's amazing.)
posted by susiswimmer at 1:45 PM on July 20, 2014 [5 favorites]

Your sister did the right thing by stating her boundaries. If this is the first time she does state a boundary, your parents are likely shocked. She's changing how the relationships works between them.

I went through the same thing and survived a year of parental outrage as I learned to stand firm on my own needs. Now, two years later, I have the best relationship with my parents that I've ever had.

I hope that in her case too the calm will follow the storm.
posted by Milau at 1:48 PM on July 20, 2014 [8 favorites]

Pay for your sister to stay at a hotel or motel XX weekend. Have her move her family's base of operations.

Similarly, get your sister a $20 pay-as-you-go phone. Her and her husband go "on vacation" from their apartment and their phones for 2 days. Bonus points if they let their smartphones power down.

Don't bother calling the police non-emergency line, but she should maybe tell her landlord that her family is going out of town & not to let in her parents if they show up. She should NOT tell landlord/management where she'll be staying.

And, that's it. She should concentrate on having a nice quiet weekend without distractions.

I doubt your parents will show up in the end, at any rate.

Your sister seems not to grasp that she is an adult & that this is a free country.

Personally, I would stop talking to anyone who made me so scared that I needed to stay in a hotel for a weekend, but I have developed appropriate boundaries over many years, and your sister is just taking her first steps in the right direction.

Remind her she's an Adult. Gift her a stay at a hotel/motel. Tell her to stop talking to her parents since they are emotionally terrorizing her, because this is how mature self-actualized people handle emotional terrorists - they stop interacting with them - problem solved.

Source: overcoming my mom, similar abuse and fears. Wish I had acted on my own behalf sooner, so many things improved once I jettisoned the stress of my dysfunctional mom/family from my life.
posted by jbenben at 3:48 PM on July 20, 2014 [7 favorites]

I agree with Ruthless Bunny's advice.

I would take it step further, possibly, and have sis tell mom and dad that if they show up against her wishes, they will NOT see their grandchild then, or at any time in the future until sis and her husband say so. In other words, attach strong consequences to mom and dad behaving badly.

It will feel hard and weird and probably wrong for your sis to set this type of bright-line boundary, but it is necessary; and it won't always feel this hard and weird -- she'll develop her boundary-setting muscles.

For you: because you have boundary-crashing parents, you probably need to keep an eye on your own natural desire to step in and rescue your sis from mom and dad -- if you get too enmeshed in the outcome, that's a form of boundary-intruding too, even if it's a well-intentioned one. Help her with advice, while maintaining a sort of loving detachment, if that makes any sense.
posted by nacho fries at 7:57 PM on July 20, 2014 [9 favorites]

While it's easy to just tell them to not answer the door, you should be aware that there are various state laws regarding grand-parental visitation rights, and grandparents have been known to sue about this sort of thing. Your parents are already talking in terms of their rights in regard to seeing their granddaughter, and sound like the kind of people who would at least use this threat as a bludgeon if not actually go through with it.

It would be wise to figure out what the laws in their state are and be prepared to deal with that tactic from them.
posted by Naberius at 7:19 AM on July 21, 2014 [2 favorites]

Knowing the laws specific to your state will be useful info, but don't let the threat of a lawsuit intimidate you and your sis/her husband. If (and it's a big if) the circumstances of your sister's situation *might* make your parents believe they can hit up the court for rights, it doesn't mean the court will agree. And it doesn't mean your sis and her husband should back down.

People sue for all kinds of shit all the time, and lose. If your parents go this route, then I would double-up on the consequences -- if they choose the nuclear option, then let them be aware that if they lose, they will have no further relationship with sis and grandkid, because they are obviously not acting in the interests of the grandkid by creating legal drama and stress.

Narcissists love to try to use public servants as their personal thug enforcers (calling the cops, calling lawyers). It's a bullying tactic. Don't let them psych you out from asserting your rights, whatever those might be for your sister's state.
posted by nacho fries at 11:43 AM on July 21, 2014

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